This summer saw one of the most explosive seasons of Love Island of all time.
We saw break-ups, bust-ups and bitching, not to mention cheating, cringeing and cream pies.
And that’s not mentioning Millie on the keyboard, of course – who would have thought we’d find the next Elton John in the villa, of all places?
All jokes aside, I wish winners Millie and Liam well – but in reality, they’re only coming in second place behind Liberty Poole, Nando’s waitress turned national treasure, and the real winner of Love Island.
Already, the big-money deals have rolled in for her; she's signed a £1million deal with In The Style, and she's the only Islander to have bagged a place on ITV's Dancing On Ice - where former villa favourite Maura made her mark.
We're thrilled for Liberty. After all, it couldn't have happened to a nicer girl.
Having been one of the villa OGs, Liberty amassed a strong fanbase right from the start of Love Island this year, ever since she walked in arm-in-arm with instant best pal Kaz Kamwi and struggled to pop open a bottle of bubbly. She stepped forward straightaway for Jake Cornish, the very first man in the villa, and the pair hit it off instantly. Liberty was ditzy and playful, gregarious and warm, open and honest about her insecurities (despite being entirely drop dead gorgeous) but equally as encouraging of her pals to couple up. Effectively, she was the villa’s everywoman, the person all the viewers at home could relate to and identify with.
Having been coupled up with Jake since the very first day in the villa, Liberty’s journey on Love Island fundamentally revolved around him – seeing her earnestly gush about just how much she likes him to the other girls, while he told pretty much any lad who was listening that he “didn’t want to rip her clothes off”. While the pair did seem to go from strength to strength, ‘graduating’ together and even becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, it was the Movie Night challenge that essentially cracked their partnership – Liberty cruelly learning about Jake’s lack of attraction to her reinforcing any inkling of doubt she may have previously felt.
In the end, the pair split not with a bang, but with a whimper – Jake’s cry of ‘I love you’ seemed insincere, and a small row over selfies belied a much deeper issue.
Liberty’s decision to tell Jake that he wasn’t right for her, just days before the final, took a great deal of guts. Both inside the villa and in real life, we can all think of examples of couples that have stayed together despite some of the glaring issues - and with £50,000 on the table, many of us would have been tempted to paste on a smile and pretended to have been loved-up to be in with a shot. But Liberty’s decision to turn her back on the prize fund (one she could have potentially won, considering her popularity) and leave the villa showed that she was only ever on Love Island for love, and not the instant fame and fortune a stint on the programme often promises.
It was in this snapshot that Liberty cemented herself as genuine and authentic, something that’s often sorely missing on the Insta-age of reality TV. It’s an asset which, the more cynical of us will admit, is also insanely marketable. Liberty is now the first Islander from this series to have earned one million Instagram followers, with digital marketing agency 10Yetis believing she can now command up to £24,000 per sponsored post. Who even needs the winnings when this is your pulling power?
We can’t deny hearts broke across the country when a tearful Liberty told the girls: “I deserve to be loved and appreciated.
“Even though I didn’t find love, I found self-love and I’m not going to change myself.”
It may have been a difficult lesson for Liberty to learn, on national TV no less, but it’s an essential one – made all the more important and poignant for Love Island’s target audience demographic of young, impressionable teens.
“Liberty’s speech where she realised her self-worth was the pivotal moment of Love Island,’ psychotherapist and relationship expert Sally Baker explains. “There is such courageousness and bravery in her words. She found this amazing inner strength to say, ‘this isn’t right, it’s not for me.’
“This is something so many young girls may take away for themselves after seeing Liberty do this. There will be girls out there who may be feeling gas-lit, put upon or taken for granted. They may see Liberty’s response and think, ‘Well, actually, I’m really uncomfortable about how this is playing out.”
Since leaving the programme, Liberty's remained slightly more guarded about her love life. It was thought maybe she’d reconcile with Jake (but that doesn't look likely, considering he wasn't even at her birthday party), or maybe her dream man has already slid into her DMs, ready to go full Mr Darcy and tell her he loves her ‘just as he is.’
But even if he’s not, we know Liberty is absolutely fine. She has shown the nation how much strength there is in self-love and self-respect – and the true power there is in standing on your own.